Britain Needs to Outgrow It’s National Fetish
So there we have it. Meghan Markle is now officially the Duchess of Sussex. Following her marriage to Prince Harry she is now a ‘black’ princess (or ‘biracial’ as she prefers to identify herself as) who has finally entered into the whitest of white spaces on British society: the Royal family; making it reflect the multi-ethnic and multi-cultural character of modern Britain. I’ve never liked this argument because as the census states 2.3 million Britons are either married to, or living with, someone of a different ethnicity. This marriage is not a reflection of how modern the monarchy has become but how backwards and reactionary this ghastly institution really is. British society has been intermingling and intermixing across the colour lines for a long time. We don’t need this royal wedding to validate it for us.
Leaving aside all the usual gossip about dresses and who was the most stylish — personally that title ought to go to Amal Clooney who looked gorgeous in her sun coloured dress — that accompanies national events like these, this wedding was much different than the royal weddings of the past because of what is supposedly represents for Black Britons. Afua Hirsch in a nauseating column proclaimed that the royal wedding was a “rousing celebration of blackness” because they brought in a charismatic black Episcopalian church leader, Reverand Michael Curry from Chicago, to give the sermon. In all honesty that whole sermon made me cringe, if I was in the audience I would start cracking up with laughter at just how awkward this attempt to project an authentic, exotic black Christianity in a formal Royal setting was. Trust me, go to any church in Nigeria and you will really see rousing sermons from black Christians.
I do understand though why many people of colour, Black Britons included, would feel some affinity towards the Royal Wedding between Harry and Meghan. A nice visual change from the white aesthetic status quo. Symbolism and representation are not be underestimated. But do not be fooled, this is not a victory against racism and white supremacy. The British royal family is a veneration of wealth, status, elitism, privilege, the semi-worship of human beings and the concentration of wealth and resources in the hands of a small amount of people — very reflective of the current economic structure. Anti-racism has become so depoliticised that some see the struggle for racial equality as the ruling class incorporating the right amount of minorities into it. “ Equality does not mean making inherited privilege more “diverse””, writes Kenan Malik in The Guardian, “It requires us to get rid of the whole shebang. Adding a splash of colour to a feudal relic is not my idea of social progress”.
It is high time that Britain collectively matured and finally be rid of our national fetish that is the monarchy. A hereditary monarch, observed Thomas Paine, is as pointless as a hereditary doctor or mathematician. But try pointing this out when everybody is gushing with royal fever and credulity over this “fairy tale” wedding. You’ve dared to break with the consensus. You’re a killjoy! You’re a nutty republican! How embarrassing and degrading it was to see millions of people organised their way around watching two people they don’t know get married, waving union jacks and throwing street parties. What could be more detrimental to British self-respect than this orgy of servility. Until we, as a people, begin to value our own dignity and view ourselves as citizens not subjects then we will not be able to fully progress into a more democratic culture.
Firm republican that I am and strong opponent of the notion that a head of state should also be the head of the national church (or defender of all faiths as Prince Charles once hoped to be), I find myself tinged with a smattering of sympathy for the Windsor clan. We usually think that any relationship of power and inequality only harms those at the bottom, but it also harms those at the top. Marx argued in his writings that the bourgeoisie experience alienation under capitalism because they are at the mercy of forces they don’t control even if they are the more privileged party meaning the impact of those forces won’t hit them as hard as they will the poor.
The Royal Family by virtue of their position in the social hierarchy that has endowed them with wealth, celebrity status and inordinate amounts of privilege can barely function like normal human beings. Because of their celebrity status their private life is public property, their most intimate moments such as weddings, funerals, pregnancy and childbirth are made into public spectacles, and their general day to day business is under the microscopic lens of the paparazzi and the low grade tabloid media. I couldn’t live like that, and probably you wouldn’t be able to either. Hopefully we won’t need anything as dramatic as a revolution to be rid of the monarchy. We can perfectly relieve the Windsors of their duties through a referendum or parliamentary reforms and forming a new constitutional settlement within the system. This peculiar institution that is the monarchy is part of our history and heritage, no one is denying that, but it shouldn’t define it, and we shouldn’t be forever shackled by it. At some point Britain is going to have to grow up and fully progress into the 21st century. I sincerely wish Meghan all the best but she should leave that institution while she still can — and take Harry with her too. Going beyond the monarchy isn’t just good for our sake, it’s also good for their sake.